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All over the country non-profits and associations are moving to the Drupal platform. Many move as they see others forge the path and admire the powerful web presences being created on the Drupal platform. The non-profit industry is probably one of the most saturated in different options for locally installed and Software as a Service (SaaS) based content management solutions tailored to the industry. These are all relatively inexpensive solutions, so why does an enterprise open source solution like Drupal continue to lead the way and be responsible for the most highly revered non-profit websites in the country?

The answer is flexibility, which can be the key to many other compelling reasons why Drupal continually dominates the market of membership-based, non-profit organizations. Before understanding why Drupal, we must first understand some essential truths about non-profits that will not change, regardless of that amazing product presentation you just witnessed:

Things That Will Never Change

  1. Your Non-Profit Is Unique. Your non-profit is most certainly unique and although you may feel your practices are pretty standard, in the past five years I have yet to see a single non-profit that doesn't have custom workflow processes or proprietary ways of communicating with their membership base.
  2. You Have an Image to Uphold. No matter what your size is, you have an image to protect. This image represents your mission and in this day and age your membership base has an expectation of what's professional (or up to standards) on the web. Many SaaS offerings have heavy restrictions on design capabilities that limit your ability to provide the impact you need to for your membership.
  3. You Want Features Faster. Deploying a membership-based website is fantastic, but the web moves fast and you need a site that is flexible enought to be compatible with how your membership wants to view information, receive information, and collaborate within the community.
  4. Limited Staff for Management. I rarely see non-profits with the correct amount of individuals to manage the web. It's not just the solution from a technology perspective, but the generation of content, the structure of navigation, identifying members only resources, event management, and much more.

How Drupal Solves These Issues

  1. Drupal Is as Unique as Your Non-Profit. Drupal is a highly flexible platform that can be completely customized to your organization's needs. Since it's also exceptional with integrations, it extends the ability for single sign-on with associated management systems (AMSs) and allows for valuable data to brought into the web presence from supporting systems. This is often and almost always lacking in SaaS-based solutions, forcing your organization to change internal processes to fit technology. Technology should never dictate business objectives/processes - it should streamline and enhance it.
  2. Your Image Gets Full Reign. Because Drupal is a free-to-use, open source platform licensed under the general public license (GPL), any and all modifications can be made to ensure that the image and information architecture your organization needs is available. While I can't say all ideas are "recommended" I can certainly say they are possible.
  3. Features Are Available Faster. You have the undisputed benefit of an enormous contributing community that offers modules and enhancements for the newest trends available on the internet today. If there isn't one available, you still have the option of developing this with your web firm. Either way its open and available on a timeline of your choosing as opposed to waiting for a patch or response to a feature request that goes into the abyss.
  4. Drupal Reduces Management. While I will admit Drupal is very powerful and requires training, I will also tell you that the correlation of systems data throughout the organization, the ability to manage multiple websites from a single location, and the flexibility of content control helps reduce the overall workload tremendously, enabling you to get information to visitors and members much quicker.

In the end Drupal may take a bit more to deploy in a customized fashion, but in the long term it will benefit the organization for years to come. Remember you'll never get away from the following truths: You do require customization  for your non-profit, you will still need a design process, and you will need flexibility for future enhancements.

How has Drupal worked for your organization? What issues has it solved. Please leave comments to help me and others learn more about what organizations have experienced when working with Drupal for their websites.